Dear Columbine Families and Friends,
It is hard to believe that it is April! As you can imagine, spring is a very busy time at Columbine since we have to add our state assessments and planning for next school year to everything that we already do. Now is a good time for you to give me any feedback that will help improve teaching and learning at our school.
There seems to be a different vibe about state assessments this year. I think that a few factors have contributed to this change. First, we now know what the state assessments require from us instructionally, the state has considerably reduced the amount of testing required in response to last year’s feedback, and we, as a learning community, are using a holistic approach to giving, taking and interpreting results derived from these tests. As an example, I am attaching a letter that Riga in 5th grade with a few friends spontaneously wrote to “The People from PARCC and Possibly the Government.” I think that you will find a lot of wisdom within this letter!
School Accountability Committee (SAC)
A great place to share concerns, questions, and comments is with the SAC. You can directly reach our SAC through this email: ColumbineSAC@gmail.com. I think of our SAC as our Board of Directors. Even though these are volunteer positions, members take their role as advisors, supporters, and providers of recommendations for improvement planning, very seriously.
Here are the topics that we discussed in our last meeting:
Technology use in Classrooms
A concern was brought up about the validity of the use of technology in classrooms. Particularly with our youngest learners. While there is no doubt that educational technology can be used to augment a lesson, create background knowledge, help students transition or guide mindful practices and brain breaks, connect students with people in the field related to the content, etc., how much is too much? and, how are we monitoring the instructional quality of what is being presented to students?
I shared with SAC that these were valid questions since the use of technology in the classrooms, at least to the extent that it is currently being used, is new and changes on a daily basis. To add to the complexity of the subject, feelings about technology use in classrooms ranges between no use at all to teach as much as possible using digital format. As a result, I am committed to having a substantive conversation with the Instructional Staff and include our families. We can also bring experts in the field as needed, and as we become more informed, decide as a school how to proceed systematically. My guess is that we will land somewhere in the middle but I imagine that it will feel better to all if we decide together how technology will be used at Columbine.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the family that brought this concern to my attention. There is no doubt that we need to have this conversation since more and more technology is used to keep children entertained, and as a result, children may possibly struggle in the future focusing their attention in absence of the level of stimulation that only technology can provide. As always, ‘too much of a good thing may not be good for long’.
If this topic interests you, please share any research that will help. I was surprised as I prepared for this newsletter how little guidance there is for educators regarding technology in classrooms. here are a couple of resources that you may want to check out:
- International Society for Technology in Education
- Use of Technology Policy– Parent Permission
- BVSD Instructional Technology
Students with Emotional Needs
In our SAC we also discussed concerns brought up by parents regarding the impact of students impacted by social-emotional/behavioral needs on learning and safety of the rest of the students. I want to emphasize that the concern brought up is very valid. The difficulty is that all students are entitled by law to a free education in the least restrictive environment. As a result, Columbine, as a public school, is charged to educate any student in its catchment area with the resources available. Many of our 450 students come to school ready to learn while others are dealing with very real issues that impact their learning. Some of the contributing factors may be physiological like attention deficit disorders, impulsivity, inability to self-regulate, etc. In other cases, social issues like divorce, poverty, inequity, etc. may influence our students social-emotional wellbeing. It is important to note that these issues may be evident regardless of the student’s demographic context.
Just like with adults, it takes a lot of time and interventions to diagnose and treat these individualized issues for our students, and sadly, while we have more resources than most schools, we certainly don’t have enough resources to meet the needs of our most impacted students.
This year the staff was trained on Well Managed Schools to better serve our students at the universal level. I will also explore how to put more staffing towards supporting students with social-emotional needs and behavioral needs.
Thanks to all of you for understanding and for your patience.
Staffing for 2015-2016
It is that time of year again. Based on student enrollment projections, we will have enough students to get staffing for a little over 19 classes. This is an increase of about one class compared to current staffing. To run the school based on current standards, and maintain our bilingual program, we will need a minimum 23 classes. As in years past, our school community values small class sizes. As a result, we will aim to continue to use additional staffing allocated to the school to support students qualifying for meal assistance (Title I), underachieving in literacy, and for whom English is a second language (ESL). This works because we use the half time Assistant Principal allocation to fund Spanish as a World Language. The idea is that smaller class sizes result in better grade level instruction and allows teachers to provide interventions on the spot through differentiated instruction. The other premise is that when our English dominant students are learning Spanish our Spanish dominant students receive at least 45 minutes of English as a Second Language instruction as required by the law.
Sadly, so far we have received cuts in literacy staffing and ESL. We are waiting for Title I funds.
- Additional Assistant Principal staffing from district– This year we were fortunate to have Amanda Holden serve Columbine as our assistant principal for two days every week. This is additional staffing that comes from the district specifically to support our school and to develop future elementary principals for BVSD. Amanda has taken a position at the district level in the Planning and Assessment Department. I have no doubts that Amanda will do an excellent job advocating for our school. She will be missed.
In her place, we will have Bianca Gallegos. Bianca has taught in a dual language school, served as assistant principal of Justice High, and now is an assistant principal at the Arapahoe Campus in Boulder. She will be receiving her doctorate next year, and this is the kicker, she is a Columbine graduate. I think you will like her!
Please find attached the school directory so that students can stay in touch during the summer. I am thankful that our PTA has taken this on and in particular for the parents that created it. Please remember that only families that opted out are not included and we acknowledge that there may be mistakes. Please give us any feedback that will help us improve it. Hopefully we will have the directory earlier in the school year in 2016-2017.
*The School Directory was not posted with the online version of April 2016 Columbine Memo. Please contact the Main Office for a copy.
Para-educator/Classified Employee Appreciation Day
PTA meeting from 5:45-7:00
Raffle Packets go home
April 15 and 18
No SCHOOL- Exchange Days for Parent Teacher Conferences
Administrative Professional’s Day
2nd Grade Musical (6:30-7:15)
- Return Raffle Packets
- Arts Fiesta 5:00-7:00 P.M.
Día de los niños/Day of the Child
Have a great April!